Stages of Dissertation Writing

Pre-Development

Dissertation Chair/Advisor

Selecting the right dissertation chair or advisor is a very important part in the outcome and timeline of your dissertation. If your advisor has a full-time job outside of being a professor, she or het may not have as much time to devote to helping you with your dissertation as a full-time professor. It may also take more time to get revisions back to you. This should be a interview process on both ends and should end with finding the right match for both you and the chair/advisor.

Dissertation Topic

The process of selecting a topic for a dissertation can be quite cumbersome and lengthy for many students. Students often change their topic several times before selecting a topic. Often times this is because their original desires topic is too broad or too narrow of a topic. Another reason is that the original topic has already been discussed in the literature many times. Your dissertation chair/advisor should help you with this part of the dissertation process, but it is still subject to change once you begin the literature review process.

What a dissertation chair/advisor is looking for when approving a dissertation topic is that the topic is not too broad, not too narrow, has not already been discussed too many times, and adds value to the existing literature/community. For instance, a topic of personality differences between men and women has already been studied and research many times, it’s a pretty broad subject, and is not specific enough for one to understand how it’s adding value. A better topic would be, the role gender plays in the recruiting process of first-time engineers. This is more specific and addresses potential gaps, pros, and cons within that topic.

Some students choose a dissertation topic before their committee, while some wait until after. The reason it’s recommended to choose a topic before is that it will be easier to select the other members of your dissertation committee if you have a topic to discuss with them.

Dissertation Committee

What is a dissertation committee? It’s a group of, usually professors, doctorate degree-holding individuals who will approve your dissertation and its defense to be worthy enough for completion. Typically you will have 2-4 committee members, with 3 members being the most common. One of these members will be your dissertation chair/advisor and that means you will most likely need to find two other members. These individuals are typically professors at your university, but they don’t have to be. They will need to hold a doctorate degree in a similar field and must be approved by your university. Besides your chair/advisor, these other members will typically have little interaction with you until the final stages of your dissertation. You may need their approval for the data collection section and you will definitely be working with them once you have finished writing your entire dissertation. At this point, they will give you feedback on spelling, grammar, formatting, and from a strategic standpoint as well. Typically you will need to defend your dissertation in a presentation format in front of the panel of your dissertation committee. This defense will include questions from your committee that you will need to answer on the spot. Sometimes the committee will ask you to make further changes to your dissertation at this point, or they may fully approve your dissertation. That’s why it’s best to go into the meeting fully prepared with answers to questions you can presume they will ask.

Dissertation Sections

Abstract

The abstract of your dissertation is basically a short summary of the entire dissertation. Some students choose to write this section first, waiting to include results and conclusions until those respective sections are complete.

Introduction

The introduction, or intro, section of your dissertation is technically considered the first chapter of a dissertation and appears directly after the table of contents. The purpose is to captivate the reader’s attention from the beginning. The intro chapter should include the focus, value, and objectives of the entire dissertation. It introduces the reader to the subject matter and gives the reader a general idea of how you will conduct your research.

Literature Review

The literature review, or lit review, chapter combines a short summary of a multitude of studies and findings related to your study and critically assesses them, looking for gaps and opportunities for future research.

Methods

The methods chapter simply discusses the ways in which you will conduct your research including the statistical tools you will use along with the type of experiment, if any, the type and number of subjects/participants and how you will analyze the data.

Results

The results chapter aims to provide the findings from the data collected in a brief and concise format, properly formatted to the required formatting for the dissertation.

Conclusion

The conclusion chapter takes a more qualitative look at the data and discusses it in more laymen terms using practical applications. Basically, this section is used to explain to the reader in non-statistical terms the meaning of the data discovered and how it can be applied to the real world.

Discussion & Future Considerations

The final chapter of any dissertation should include a discussion of the results that talks about gaps in the research conducted in the dissertation and how future research can expand on what has been completed.